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Cycling: Tearful Contador pulls out of Tour de France after crash

Former two-time winner Alberto Contador becomes the second major abandonment of this year's Tour de France after crashing badly on the 10th stage.

LA PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES, France: Former two-time winner Alberto Contador broke down in tears as he quit the Tour de France on Monday after crashing badly on the tough 10th stage and injuring his knee.

The Spaniard's abandonment was the second major loss to the 101st edition of the Grand Boucle following reigning champion Chris Froome's withdrawal through injury on Wednesday. The departure of the two pre-race favourites leaves Italian Vincenzo Nibali as the man to beat on the Tour.

The Astana team leader started Monday's 161-kilometre mountainous stage from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles second overall at one minute 34 seconds behind yellow jersey wearer Tony Gallopin of France.

Contador, who began the day ninth overall at 4:08, crashed around the 65-kilometre mark on a pass between the Petit Ballon climb and the Col du Platzerwasel, with just under 100 kilometres still to ride.

The 31-year-old suffered a nasty gash to his right knee and had blood pouring down his leg as he received lengthy treatment by the side of the road. His knee was patched up by the race doctor and he changed bikes and a shoe before continuing the race.

He had lost around four minutes on the peloton by this time, after which Astana took over pace-setting at the front. Despite five of Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo teammates dropping back to help pace him up the Col du Platzerwasel, he started losing more time.

Around 15 kilometres later and about halfway through the stage, Contador shared a hug with chief lieutenant, Australian Michael Rogers, before stopping by the side of the road and climbing into a team car. Visibly in pain, he was in floods of tears.

Tinkoff-Saxo later posted a message on their Twitter account saying: "A black day... albertocontador abandons letour after a crash on the descent #TDF."

Straight after news of Contador's abandonment filtered through to the peloton, Astana eased up and the escape group in front started to increase their lead that had been coming down.

On Wednesday, Briton Froome crashed twice before climbing off his bike and quitting the Tour. The 29-year-old Team Sky leader had already injured his wrist the previous day in a crash and an MRI scan on Thursday showed he had fractures to his left wrist and right hand.

Froome's super-domestique, Australian Richie Porte, took over the Sky leadership from Thursday. He is fifth overall and 1:58 behind Nibali, appears to be the Italian's major competition.

Portugal's Tiago Machado, who started the day third overall, also crashed on the descent of the Petit Ballon although he had rejoined the peloton by the time it crested the Col du Platzerwasel with 90 kilometres left.

Organisers had initially, and erroneously, announced that he had abandoned the race.

Up front, polka-dot jersey wearer Tony Martin, who won Sunday's ninth stage following a 150-kilometre escape, led an initial 13-man breakaway. Martin's pressure gradually reduced the size of the group to nine riders, including Martin's OPQS teammate Michal Kwiatkowski, who is leading the white jersey young rider's competition.

The 10th stage has a total of seven categorised climbs, including four first categories, and finishes with a brutal 5.9 kilometres ascent with an average gradient of 8.5 per cent.

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